All world-changing social enterprises begin with a unique insight and idea, but turning that idea into realized impact at scale takes more than one person, or one team. And that’s why, together with our partners, we launched the TRANSFORM Support Hub: a global, cross-sector platform that connects social enterprises with corporates, peers, learning content, and a global community of pro bono professionals to deliver market-based solutions for the Sustainable Development Goals.
We sat down with Chandramouli Samatham, Founder and CEO of the social enterprise Caare, to learn more about how the TRANSFORM Support Hub facilitated access to the resources, support, and business opportunities needed to turn his promising idea into real revenue and impact. Read his full story below to find out how!
Adapting Telemedicine to Bring Specialist Healthcare Where It’s Needed Most
Rural healthcare in India is in crisis. Available healthcare services are asymmetrically concentrated in urban areas, and as a result, nearly 70% of the population has no access to specialist healthcare. To get the care they need, rural patients often have to travel more than 100 km, resulting in lost wages and prohibitively high personal pocket costs.
Chandramouli witnessed the impact of this inequity firsthand. His father in law is a senior doctor, who has worked in remote villages for more than 40 years. When he retired, he moved back to the city with Chandramouli, who remembers that, “it was immediately clear how much his rural patients still needed him. But existing telemedicine solutions fell short, for both doctor and patients. As a doctor, he didn’t feel comfortable making diagnoses over a phone or video call without the necessary vitals and exams. Rural patients weren’t confident in consultations via video call either, without the hands-on checks done in person or previous experience with new technologies.”
No longer in a position to travel himself, Chandramouli’s father in law asked his long-time nurse to travel to the village to conduct the physical exams and routine checks, then call him to make the appropriate diagnosis and prescriptions. And it was out of this makeshift solution that the concept of Caare was born.
Chandramouli explained, “Together, the nurse and patient would call the doctor via WhatsApp, and have a conversation. Unlike existing telemedicine, having a locally-based nurse allowed the doctor to fully understand the condition with the context of the vital details needed for a good quality consultation. It led me to wonder: why not have a telemedicine platform for health workers on the ground to serve as a bridge between patient and doctor?”
The Caare Assisted Telemedicine app simplifies virtual health services for communities that have the greatest need, but also the least access. By leveraging community healthcare workers already on the ground as intermediaries, Caare is adapting telemedicine to better suit the needs of both doctors and rural patients.
As Chandramouli explained, “We designed an app to give complete control to the healthcare worker on the ground – whether that’s a village pharmacist, or professional from a local diagnostic center or clinic. These community healthcare workers have the medical background and technology skills to register the patient on the app, take their vitals and conduct relevant exams, document the problem/symptoms, and choose the appropriate kind of specialist or senior doctor for the patient’s needs. Then, they can book an appointment for the patient with the appropriate doctor right in the app.”
On the day of the appointment, Chandramouli went on to explain, “rather than traveling into an urban area, the patient returns to that same community healthcare worker who facilitates the connection between the patient and virtual specialist. This makes things easier for the doctor as well, as all relevant context and records are right there in the app to prepare them for an effective and accurate consultation. Afterwards, the doctor can prescribe a medicine through the app, which the healthcare worker can then print or forward to the local pharmacy.”
The current impact and future potential of this model is clear, but as Chandramouli shared, “our team was still very small, and needed support working out our business model beyond pilot programs we have in place with the Indian government. This was a new area for us, and we knew we would need additional support – we thought that the TRANSFORM Support Hub would be a great partner to be associated with and a way for us to get a lot of needed resources, both in terms of learning and networking.”
Leveraging Pro Bono Experts, Live Learning Events, & Ecosystem Connections to Build Capacity for Future Growth
After taking the ScaleUp Assessment – an interactive tool with targeted questions about TRANSFORM Support Hub member organization’s current stage of growth, challenges, and unique needs – Chandramouli and his team identified three areas where pro bono experts could help fill skills gaps.
The first was related to the product itself. To get feedback on the app from technology experts, Chandramouli connected with a group of SAP employees through the Acceleration Collective, which is a private space within the TRANSFORM Support Hub where impact entrepreneurs can connect exclusively with SAP employees. Chandramouli reflected, “the feedback we received from the SAP team has been invaluable. These are professionals operating at the high standard it takes to build out a global technology platform, and bringing their insights to meet us where we were in these early stages enabled us to go to market in a way that is both competitive and truly solves the problem on the ground.”
Talking through his business model and product with professionals who had an outside perspective unlocked a number of new insights for Chandramouli and his team. He shared, “the SAP team primarily helped us look at how robust our solution was, based on what we had already built. We did several rounds of interviews and calls where we explained how we designed the app, the context, and the realities of the users. They made a lot of suggestions about how we can further improve the overall user experience for patients, healthcare workers, and doctors. We’re still in the process of implementing them, and what’s unique is that it’s an ongoing relationship – once we’ve made updates, we’ll have a chance to go back to them and review progress and discuss next steps and future iterations.”
Marketing & Growth
The second was around digital marketing. After posting a project on the TRANSFORM Support Hub, Chandramouli found the right match with experteer Priyanka Chandrasekar. During our interview he joked, “if you go to our website now, what you’ll see is her magic!” According to Chandramouli, her outside perspective helped him realize that, “while our original website was pretty straightforward and included the factual information, it wasn’t conveying the more aspirational message about the app’s ultimate impact: bridging the healthcare gap for rural communities. She suggested, in a really thoughtful and constructive way, that we bring in more of an emotional connection. With her support we were able to start re-working the website to establish that connection by incorporating pictures and messaging that draws the audience in and makes them want to learn more.”
Aside from the tactical support, the SAP team has also facilitated a number of connections to different parts of the company to boost Caare’s presence in the media. “One thing we are really excited about is that SAP has offered to do a social media spotlight about our story, and that’s a big deal! Having a company as influential as SAP talk about our work will get us in front of people who may never have learned about us otherwise.”
The third was around crowdfunding. “We needed help planning and executing a crowdfunding campaign,” Chandramouli shared, “and found a great experteer to help us do that. That project is still in process, but the idea is to be able to raise some funds to use to sponsor community health events at no cost to the patients. He’s a marketing specialist, and is helping us build out the campaign and upskill our team as part of brainstorming meetings and execution meetings.”
In addition to our network of pro bono experts, the TRANSFORM Support Hub also offers social enterprise growth webinars hosted in partnership with ecosystem leaders like Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship and Mercy Corps Ventures.
Chandramouli has been an active participant in these events, and was able to receive live coaching from Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship’s Director of Partnerships, Jeff Pilisuk, about where to focus Caare’s NGO partnership strategy (learn more about the advice Jeff shared in this recap blog post.)
He also participated in the series with Mercy Corps Social Ventures about using social impact as a sales advantage when pitching potential partners or impact investors, which he was able to directly translate to Caare’s work. As a result of this connection, Chandramouli and his team were invited to do an independent pitch session with Mercy Corps Ventures as a way to practice and get feedback on Caare’s investment pitch.
This was particularly valuable, Chandramouli reflected, because “we were able to learn how our pitch came across from the investor perspective, and what their take was. They gave us some really valuable feedback, and even documented it all for us so we could go back and address the missing elements that hadn’t been on our radar before. Our pitch deck is a lot stronger as a result, and we feel more confident going into future pitches knowing what the investor is looking for, and that we’re prepared to deliver it.”
When Chandramouli joined the TRANSFORM Support Hub, he wasn’t sure what to expect. Reflecting on past experiences, he shared, “As a startup, we’ve participated in a few incubation programs, but nothing like this. I never expected to receive this volume of support leading to tangible results. It has exceeded all expectations, and is so exciting to be part of it!”
He elaborated, “Joining the TRANSFORM Support Hub and working with MovingWorlds has created significant impact for us and our work. It gave us a big boost, and has been a great opportunity not only in terms of the resources we’re able to access, but also in terms of positioning ourselves for and connecting with business opportunities for future growth.”
Working with experts across sectors creates true shared value, and as Chandramouli pointed out, “It makes such a difference to get an outside perspective – the suggestions made by our experteers, the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship team, and the Mercy Corps Ventures team helped us think through things in a new way and look at angles we hadn’t thought about before. Without the TRANSFORM Support Hub, we would have had to hire an agency to do these things, which we would not have been able to afford. Being part of this program has given us support and resources we would not have been able to access otherwise.”
We are grateful for the opportunity to work with and support inspiring innovators like Chandramouli, and look forward to continuing to do so as Caare continues to scale its revenue and impact. Is your social enterprise looking for resources and connections needed to catalyze future growth? Apply to the TRANSFORM Support Hub for ongoing, bespoke business support from a global community of professionals, corporations, accelerators, and impact investors invested in your success.